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An Interview with Rob Shapiro of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization

October 8, 2011

As the Manager of Materials and Foreign Licensing at R&H Theatricals, Rob prepares scripts for new acquisitions and restorations; liaises between R&H’s international agents and the New York office; and works on various projects such as the G2K series and trivia cards.  Prior to R&H, Rob received his MFA from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, and he is currently collaborating on a number of projects as a composer/lyricist.

Rob is directly involved with the R&H Organization’s G2K series, so I wanted him to tell us about the details of that program, as well as some more general questions pertinent to people involved in school shows.

Music Directing The School Musical: Tell me about the G2K series the R&H organization offers. How many titles are there now, and what are the advantages of doing a show from this series?

Rob Shapiro: The G2K or “Getting To Know” Series are uniquely adapted musicals specifically designed for young performers that run between 50 and 70 minutes.  They are designed to be for actors in kindergarten through 9th grade.

There are now 5 titles: G2K… CINDERELLA, The KING AND I, ONCE UPON A MATRESS, OKLAHOMA!, and our newest release, STATE FAIR.

The advantages of performing a show from the series include the many resources that we provide: each show kit comes with a director’s guide and study guides; there is an orchestral accompaniment CD; and a DVD guide to musical staging.  Also, the keys have been transposed into youth-friendly keys so that performers feel comfortable singing their favorite songs.

MDTSM: What kinds of things do you change when you’re retooling a show for younger performers?

RS: We try and change as little as possible while retaining the most essential elements that tell the story in a succinct, efficient and entertaining way.  We are conscious of what has made these musicals so beloved throughout the years, so we have to balance both the expectations of the audiences while trimming the plot and songs to be appropriate for the young performers.  Mainly, G2K adaptations are created by scaling down the dialogue and making the story leaner.

MDTSM: Is it difficult getting the authors and/or estates of authors to go along with changes from their original material?

RS: Our authors and estates have been very supportive of the series and creating materials for young performers.

MDTSM: What can we expect in the future from R&H for young performers?

RS: Further titles are being planned for the series, though none are confirmed at this time. Please visit our website at www.rnh.com or “Like” us on Facebook at rodgersandhammerstein, where news of the next title in the series will be announced.

MDTSM: People involved in producing theatre with kids often ask about changing things in shows to make the material easier or more suitable to their particular needs. What is R&H’s position about that?

RS: We receive lots of emails requesting changes to suit individual needs, from changing “hell” to “heck” (etc. etc. etc.) to cutting entire songs.  We try to accommodate theaters where we can, but in addition to serving our customers, we are also representatives to our authors and their original visions.  Each request is reviewed on a case by case basis.

MDTSM: How did you get involved with this end of the business?

RS: As a composer/lyricist, I’ve always loved Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals.  While at the NYU Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, I sent an email to the R&H website (www.rnh.com) asking if any summer internships were available – fortunately for me, there was!  As an intern I learned all about licensing and the business behind show business.  After graduation, I was offered a full-time position, and I’ve been with R&H since 2007.  I feel very lucky to be representing so many writers (dead and living) who inspire me.

MDTSM: In this era of downsizing arts departments at schools, why is theatre such an important thing for young people?

RS: I think theatre can teach almost anything depending on the show, but mostly, it teaches people to collaborate.  That is an important lesson not only for young people but for everyone. As Oscar Hammerstein II wrote, “’Collaboration’ is the biggest word in the theater.”

For information about R&H Theatricals visit www.rnh.com.  To learn more about Rob, visit www.rsmusicals.com.

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2 comments

  1. plz do more musical rough guides.


  2. Blake- It takes me a while to do those, and I prefer to do them when I’m fresh off MDing the show. Expect one for Menken’s Christmas Carol in early December, one for Seussical in February, and one for Carousel in April. In June I hope to have one for Once Upon a Mattress, and in August, Once On This Island. Glad you’re enjoying them.



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